→ Download Now: Infographic - 3 Ways Colleges Can Help Parents Support Their Students’ Mental Health
Mental Health Awareness Month is held each year in October. It's a time when colleges and universities across the country offer events and activities to raise awareness about mental health issues and promote healthy coping strategies. The month is meant to help students recognize signs of stress and encourage them to seek help if needed. Unfortunately, in the last eight years, there's been a 135% increase in depression and a 110% increase in anxiety among college students. These are staggering and concerning numbers for the parents and families of college students and the schools they attend. So how can our institutions provide direction and resources for students' parents and families regarding mental health? We share three ways institutions can reach out to this vital part of a student's support network.
Provide Stress Management Resources
Encourage families to remind their students about healthy ways to relieve stress. Some stress management techniques include physical activity, adequate sleep, and breathing exercises. These techniques can help students cope with stress and anxiety. Parents and families can remind their students about these resources ahead of stressful times in the semester. In addition, students should be encouraged to use these techniques before exams, during midterms, and during exam time. Short videos like this one on stress management can guide families in supporting their students.
Communicate Where Mental Health Support Resources Are
The first step in providing mental health support resources is clearly communicating with parents and families about the mental health support services that exist on campus. Remind families that there are many resources available on campus to help students who may be struggling with depression, anxiety, stress, eating disorders, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or any other mental health issue. If this seems overwhelming to a student, encourage them to identify someone on campus they can turn to for help, such as a fellow student, a faculty member, or a work-study supervisor. Use videos like this one to provide additional tips for families.
Guide Parents With Tips For Asking Open-Ended Questions
Parents may need help approaching a student about how the semester is going or ascertaining at a distance whether a student needs mental health support. Providing parents and families with sample questions like these can be a simple way institutions can coach parents to spark discussion to get at the heart of a student's concern. Identifying the most appropriate contact on campus if parents or families are concerned about their students is also helpful. At some institutions, this might be the dean of students, a parent advocacy office, or the director of residence life. Ensure families have this contact information readily available to them.
How Are Colleges Supporting Student Mental Health?
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that about 20 percent of college students suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. Students who struggle with these issues sometimes don't seek treatment because they feel embarrassed or ashamed. They may not realize that services are available to help them cope with stressors and challenges. Colleges and universities are acknowledging the importance of supporting student mental health. The good news is that students are more comfortable asking for help and using resources like college counseling centers. But, institutions must involve parents and families in the ongoing efforts to create strategies for addressing student mental health.
How Can Colleges Empower Students & Inform Parents?
ParentLingo is a fully-hosted online orientation solution for parents & families of college students which encourages independence, personal growth, and academic success. This online support tool provides resources that guide parents through their student's first year using instructional videos, discussion questions, and additional resources.
By Meg Foster
Online Learning & Design Specialist - Consultant
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- The Jed Foundation 60% of college kids are living with mental health issues. Most schools are unprepared, and it could hold dire consequences for students’ futures